A split SWAC is a good idea

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 1999

By George, or was it Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Rudy Washington, I believe splitting up the SWAC was a good idea.

With the recent expansion involving Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, SWAC representatives felt the league should be split into two divisions with a championship game being played at the end of the season instead of teams going into the Division I-AA playoffs.

That seems to be a good idea. Southern or Jackson State would not go far in the I-AA&160;playoffs this year. But don’t feel bad about that, no SWAC team has ever won a playoff game in football.

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Under the old system, Jackson State and Southern would have been fighting for the SWAC&160;title.

The fact Southern and Grambling were still in contention for the SWAC Western Division championship added even more to the Bayou Classic on Saturday.

Southern defeated Grambling 37-31 to finish 10-1 overall and 4-0 in the Western Division. Grambling finished 7-4 and 2-2 in the conference.

Jackson State is 9-2 and 4-0 in its division.

The title game is slated for Saturday, December 11, 1999 at 1:05 p.m. at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

JSU’s two losses coming at the hands of nationally ranked Tennessee State (48-33) and Southern (24-16).

In the October 16 clash between the two SWAC titans, the two teams combined for a total of nine turnovers and 24 penalties. Southern led 13-0 at one stage before taking a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. In the second half, the Jaguars outscored J-State 13-7 to account for their 12-point victory margin.

Following the October 16 game, Southern head coach Pete Richardson said, &uot;This was a big win for our program, the kids especially. They go out and do everything we ask and that’s why we’ve been having some success.&uot;

The Jaguars won the SWAC Western Division and were ranked among the nation’s top five teams prior to a humbling 65-18 loss at Florida A&M on November 6. The Jaguars followed that loss with back-to-back victories over Texas Southern (23-14) on November 13 and Grambling State (37-31) on November 27.

One bit of business still to be settled between the Tigers and the Jaguars is which team can boast of being the SWAC’s &uot;Team of the Decade.&uot;

Both Jackson State and Southern have captured three league championships in the 1990s, JSU winning the gold in 1990, 1995 and 1996. Southern captured SWAC titles in 1993, 1997 and 1998.

As for the rest of the SWAC, Alcorn State finished 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the SWAC&160;Eastern Division.

The Braves finished behind Alabama A&M, which was 6-5 and 3-1.

Alcorn finished with 1,007 yards rushing as a team. Senior Rodney Thomas had 1,286 by himself last year. Alcorn’s defense gave up 1,799 rushing yards and 3,758 through the air. Needless to say, the running game and defense will need a major overhaul next year.

Texas Southern actually moved ahead of Grambling into second place with a 3-1 SWAC&160;mark.

One thing about the new set-up, if the Braves can get past their earlier opponents, they could make the Capital City Classic contest against Jackson State one for all the marbles the same way the Bayou Classic was last Saturday.

And that’s the kind of exposure and publicity the Braves football program needs.

Joey Martin is sports editor at The Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172 ext 232 or by e-mail at joey.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.